A woman in England died after a metal drinking straw impaled her eye and damaged her brain. Elena Struthers-Gardner use of the ec0-friendly metal straw has put a new focus on how plastic straw bans impact individuals with disabilities.
According to a report in Daily Echo, Lena Gardner was carrying a mason style jar with a lid to her kitchen and collapsed. A ten-inch metal straw in the jar impaled her left eye socket and entered her brain.
Gardner suffered an injury in her twenties that caused multiple fractures to her spine and caused scoliosis. Due to her injury, her wife told the Daily Echo that she was prone to falling.
According to the coroner report, Mandy Struthers-Gardner found her wife laying on the floor making unusual gurgling sounds.
“I did not hear her fall.
“I went to the kitchen door and could see Lena lying on her front at the doorway between the den and the kitchen.
“She was making unusual gurgling sounds.
“Her glass cup was lying on the floor still intact and the straw was still in the jar.
“I noticed the straw was sticking into her head. I called 999 and requested an ambulance.
“While I was on the phone, Lena appeared to have stopped breathing. The lady on the phone asked me to turn her over.
“I slid the glass off the straw and turned her over. I could see the straw had gone through her left eye.”
An ambulance rushed Lena to the hospital. However, she died the next day from the traumatic injury to her brain. Her death related to the metal straw prompted the coroner to issue a warning about using the products.
The coroner stated that metal straws should never be used on a glass with a lid. Additionally, the coroner said that great care must be taken when using metal straws. Metal straws have become increasingly popular as more and more cities ban the sale and use of plastic straws.
Plastic straw bans have been most problematic for individuals with disabilities like Gardner. Cities around the world are no longer permitting the sale of plastic straws that have helped millions of people with disabilities drink. Options like metal, paper, or silicone straws have been pushed as more eco-friendly alternatives for individuals with disabilities.
However, metal straws are most problematic due to their structure and inability to manage the temperature of fluids. Individuals that use metal straws are at risk of chipping teeth, choking, or stabbing themselves by accident. Additionally, the straws change temperature based upon the temperature of the liquid. A hot beverage drunk through the straw can make the metal so hot that it can cause burns.
WOACB wrote about our opposition to bans on plastic straws last year due to our experience with our son. We have attempted to use metal straws for our son with a disability and learned quickly they were incredibly dangerous. Additionally, alternatives like silicone or paper straws are not sturdy enough for someone with oral motor issues, swallowing problems, or fine motor control disabilities. As a result, plastic straws are the only alternative that works for many people.Cities around the world were quick to ban the straws after a photo went viral of a turtle impaled by plastic straw. However, lawmakers failed to consider how the bans on the straws would impact people with disabilities. Lena Gardner’s death is an example of why metal straws are not safe for individuals with disabilities.
The coroner Brendan Allen wrote the following conclusion about metal straws:
“Clearly great care should be taken taken when using these metal straws. There is no give in them at all.
“If someone does fall on one and it’s pointed in the wrong direction, serious injury can occur.
“It seems to me these metal straw should not be used with any form of lid that holds them in place.
“It seems the main problem here is if the lid hadn’t been in place the straw would have moved away.”
A knee-jerk reaction to banning plastic straws could potentially end the lives of other individuals with disabilities. For many people, the only option that works is a plastic straw. If Lena Gardner was using a plastic straw, she would still be alive today.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
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